Free Agent Signing Triangle

Every year, a wide array of free agents hit the open market. Some are fantastic players entering their first eligible year. Others are role players primarily relied upon to round out a roster. So far this season, we have primarily seen deals involving the latter type of player. The cream of the crop—CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Derek Lowe, and A.J. Burnett—are all yet to sign. Fully aware of their status in this year’s free agent class, these four seem to be perfectly content waiting for the absolute best deal as opposed to jumping at sweet initial offers.

Sabathia has been offered an extremely lucrative deal from the Yankees, and the Brewers appear to be working on inserting an opt-out clause after three years to sweeten their own proverbial pot. Teixeira is under 30 years old and a +5 WAR player even with the positional adjustment at first base. As Dave noted in his valuation, players like this don’t hit the market that often. Lowe is the elder statesman of this group, yet still appears to be very effective and heavily pursued. According to reports, it seems Lowe’s representatives have spoken to half of the league already. Burnett opted out of his own contract this season, and is standing pat on getting a five-year deal.

While Burnett is standing pat, the other three are somewhat interlocked. Sabathia has mentioned specifically that he is not waiting to see where Teixeira signs before making his decision. Despite this contention, one has to wonder if certain teams pursuing both players could commit an average annual value of $16-22 mil or so to both. Sabathia might not be waiting on Tex, but the decision of one definitely has the potential to affect where the other one signs.

On top of that, Lowe has made it clear that he will wait until CC signs before inking his own deal. Lowe isn’t going to cost as much as Sabathia, but once CC signs, will be the most attractive starting pitcher on the market. Signing now, prior to Sabathia, could actually cost him money; even though, no matter what, he is still rather likely to sign a deal with an AAV of close to $14 mil. And if Sabathia continues to make the Yankees and their $9 gazil offer wait, the stocks of both Burnett and Lowe will rise in their eyes.

Off-season signing triangles such as this have happened before, and will happen again, but it is still fascinating to cover the goings on every day. One player begins to look better because another player is being patient, and where another signs could adversely affect the plans of the other two. Today, things got a little clearer, as Sabathia reportedly signed with the Yankees. How will his $140 mil deal over six years affect the rest? The Phillies and Yankees were previously considered Lowe’s frontrunners, but will New York back off, or at least not pony up as much now? And if the Nationals give Teixeira an 8-yr, Helton-esque deal, could he turn it down despite their poor standing as a franchise?

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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